You Could Be Doing So Much More With Butter

Chances are, you're not giving your refrigerator's trustiest spread the respect it deserves. Here are a few things that may convince you to change that.

We totally get it: You think you know everything there is to know about butter. There are tons of other less familiar, more enticing condiments out there—from sriracha to Nutella—that you'd rather slather on your snacks. But what if we told you that you have not even tasted the tiniest sliver of the glorious, golden stick of butter's full potential? Well, we're telling you that right now. And here we present a few of our favorite luscious, artisanal brands and the inventive culinary approaches that will make you a believer.

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The Parisian Approach: Le Beurre Bordier

Most people discover Le Beurre Bordier during their first trip to Paris, where it is commonly stocked at various specialty stores, and if you choose wisely, could show up in tandem with a basket of freshly baked bread at one of the city's more discerning restaurants. Created by chef Jean-Yves Bordier, this butter, which comes packaged in a coolly minimalist wrapper, is a classic style done right: rich, velvety, and churned and sprinkled with salt by hand. It tastes like a butter made by a cheese expert, which is exactly what Bordier, who comes from a long line of cheesemongers, is. At home, serve it like L'Avant Comptoir Wine Bar in the St. Germain neighborhood: with a simple, fresh bread basket, a tiny bit of sea salt, and a jar of bright, bitter cornichons.

Le Beurre Bordier, $3,

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For a Dip in the Ocean: Seaweed Butter

We became hooked on seaweed butter at two of the best restaurants in the country: Rolf & Daughters in Nashville, TN, and Maison Premiere in Brooklyn, NY. At Rolf & Daughters, it's served on thin baguette slices and topped with crunchy, spicy radishes. Maison Premiere, which specializes in shellfish and absinthe, uses the rich umami flavor of seaweed in its butter to set the mood for the oysters that will inevitably follow. To make your own at home, simply mix together seaweed paste, a sprinkling of sea salt, and plain, unsalted butter.

Momoya Seaweed Paste, $5,

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The Breakfast Booster: Pure Maple Butter

Maple butter is one of the most dynamic sweet butters you'll find when it comes to breakfast. Topping pancakes and waffles with it is a no-brainer (you could then skip the syrup—or not). Clinton Street Baking Company on the Lower East Side made its name (and gave rise to its famously long lines) thanks in part to their warm maple butter, which they offer as a side with various fruit-topped pancake stacks. When in the mood for less of a kitchen production, we spread the maple butter from Brown Family Farm in Vermont onto a slice of toasted white bread, sprinkled with cinnamon. There's room for maple butter at the dinner table, too: Try slathering it on a piece of cornbread for a sweet addition to a salty Southern meal.

Brown Family Farm Pure Maple Butter, $16,

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For Charcuterie Board Flair: Balsamic Fig Butter

Everybody loves a cheese and charcuterie board, but they can become predictable once you've nailed down your go-to meats and cheeses. That's where the addition of an inventive spread can keep things interesting. We love the assortment of flavored butters offered by Banner Butter from Decatur, Georgia. While all four specialty flavors (Sea Salt; Roasted Garlic Basil and Parsley; Cinnamon, Cardamom, and Ginger; Balsamic Fig and Caramelized Onion) make pleasing additions to a snack spread, we're partial to the Balsamic Fig Butter, which is also flavored with a hint of caramelized onion. It's an ideal option when fresh figs aren't in season, so that you can still balance flavors of the meat and cheese on your board with a rich, sweet fruit.

Banner Butter Gourmet Assortment, $31 for 4 flavors,

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